“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
It’s been awhile since I have shared an update. The last few months for me have been a whirlwind of emotions, prayers, seeking and waiting. Waiting for God can be so hard at times, but I have learned it is worth every minute, and jumping ahead of Him typically does not end well. So, wait I have.
Before I returned to Kenya this past October, I had been starting to feel that God was–for the lack of a better description–turning me a bit, back toward home and ministry in the states. When I first had that sense, it was subtle, and I had not felt a definitive direction, so I continued to do what I think believe we’re supposed to do while waiting on God, focus solely on the next step he has laid before us. If there is no step, remain where you are until one becomes clear. Knowing a big part of my heart was in Kenya, and with a surprise offer by a generous friend to pay for my return flight, off I went.
As in prior visits, I remained in Kenya for an extended period of time. My primary focus for the trip was to visit with our precious Upendo Boys and check in on our on the ground ministry efforts supported through Love Without Borders.
This time when I arrived back at Upendo Home, as much as we tried to get there before sundown, it was dark. When I say it is dark at Upendo Home, I mean it is d.a.r.k. There is only the light of the moon and stars. That’s it.
There is a road that leads into the property, and Upendo Home is near the back. Since the road is unpaved, even from Upendo home, the presence of a car coming in can be heard as soon as the tires hit the dirt. As we approached the home, I had my window down, and while I could not see my precious boys, I could certainly hear them. They were off in the distance at first, but getting closer. Before long, while still unable to see them, I knew they were very near and could hear what they were excitedly cheering in chorus, over and over again…”mama, mama!” Oh my heart…oh my melting heart!
The fact that these boys are always so excited to see me blesses my soul so deeply. At times, I wonder why my presence matters. They have every practical thing they need and wonderful people around to love and guide. But to them, I am “mama Karen” and to them, my presence matters a great deal. What a humbling honor to be so loved. What an honor indeed.
It had been six months since I had seen the boys. To see the boys and how well they are progressing is like seeing a walking miracle! They are doing so incredibly well. They are healthy, happy and thriving. Our Kenyan ministry partners are doing such an amazing job of shepherding these young boys and I know that our boys are great men-in-the-making.
I had a similar welcome when the Kitale street boys first learned I was back. As the boys got sight of me, the van was literally swarmed as they tried to get to me. Pastor Paul literally had to make me wait in the van and settle the boys down before I could exit the van. Waiting to get my arms around them was so hard for me, because the truth is, I love this little swarm too. Once again, though hard for me to understand, my presence also matters to these children.
That first time back to the Upendo Street Orphan Ministry, I made the mistake of getting out with my phone in my back pocket–truly, I know better–and an older kid, new to town, pickpocketed me while the kids were crowding around me. Thankfully, Pastor Caleb saw him, grabbed him with a vice-like grip, and demanded he give my phone back. When the Kitale boys learned this happened, they begged me to let them render street justice to the thief. Honestly, they probably would have killed the guy. I had to insist they stay back as I told them no. Each of the remaining weeks, when I again engaged with the Kitale boys, they were still indignant and commenting about my phone being stolen…one even said “you can’t steal from our mother!” The Kitale boys are wild, and raw, and rough but underneath that, there is the sweetness of a child and the knowledge of right from wrong. This endears them to me all the more.
Aside from that one unfortunate event, the time spent in Kenya was great. The boys have grown like weeds and desperately needed new clothes and shoes. The quality of the clothing in country is not great (the truth is, I despise buying clothes there, they are so cheaply made ) so before I left, I searched yard sales and second-hand stores to find enough gently used clothing to clothe them all. Thanks to our amazing supporters, each boy received his very own space bag of several outfits, underwear and socks, a jacket, belt and new athletic shoes. I have never heard children so exceptionally excited and grateful just to receive clothes. I had them wait their turn, as each child got to open his bag and take things out to look at them as everyone else looked on. Every one of our boys cheered for the others with joy for what they were receiving. Every child uttered their thanks to me and to God. It was such a sweet moment of sincere gratitude. I was so proud of them.
Our days were filled with catch-up chats, fun games, video dates and even a trip to a local swimming pool. Though it was cold, all of the kids suited up, climbed into swim rings and jumped in the shallow end of the pool. This was their first time at a hotel and in a pool. To them, it was clearly a miracle day. And oh, was it fun for all of us.
The weeks passed quickly, and saying goodbye to them was harder than ever. Each time we are together, our hearts grow closer. As usual, I felt like I was leaving a part of my heart behind and the goodbyes were hard, most especially for my Meshack. While he always has the hardest time saying goodbye to me, this time, it seemed even more so. In fact, he almost missed seeing me off, I could not see him anywhere, but then, he appeared. I was so glad he did, this precious child of my heart. As I wrapped him up in my arms, I sensed he was struggling more than ever, and that was so hard. I held him and spoke love to him as long as I could. With a final expression of pride and encouragement for how well they were all doing, we set off for the airport.
Before long (well, after the really long, nearly 24-hour trip) I was back home in the states, arriving just before Christmas. The next month was a blur of jet lag, a nasty, lingering bout of bronchitis that set in right before I came back, and holiday happenings. Before I knew it, January 1st rolled around and the new year was before me. The first order of business was to finish my manuscript edits on my first book, SEEN: Hope Prevails, which will be published in the very near future. I cannot wait to glorify God through this amazing story and to see what He will do with it. With that huge undertaking complete, the next question became “now what?”
This leads me back to the subject of seasons. The longer I have walked my Journey of Faith, the more I realize that the journey comes in seasons. While the seasons vary in what they hold, the one constant throughout my seasons of the past twenty years is the presence of God. Surely, I had seasons before coming to know Him, but they were so much harder than the seasons following my decision to yield my life to doing things his way.
This leads me to today, and retrospection on the last few months. The hallmark of the past few months has been uncertainty…not my favorite thing, not at all. Uncertainty about finances (ugh…so wearying), and vocation and what else is next for me. One thing I did sense was that God was beginning to “turn” me. The best way to describe this was I felt like I was in a curve, but could not yet see what lay before me when the road straightened out. This lead to many months of praying, seeking, listening, waiting and a whole lot of crying. While the road ahead is still not quite fully in view, I finally have some clarity on what I am supposed to be doing. Thank you, Lord!
First and always, I will remain committed to the boys and the ministry work that is underway in Kenya. I will continue to travel to Kenya as the missionary of the nonprofit I founded to support our work there, Love Without Borders , as often as funding and schedule allows. The next trip in my sight will be in August (I could use your tax-deductible financial support) where I will be again speaking at a three-day women’s conference and helping our in-country partners with other local ministry. I expect this trip to be around two-weeks in country time, so if you have any interest in coming along, let me know. I have two other women on board to join me. While they are both sponsors of Upendo Home, you do no have to be a sponsor to go.
Second, God has whispered to me to return to the project begun before he led me through the extended season of time in Kenya. You see, many years ago, God placed women’s ministry on my heart. He set me on a path of ministry to women, which included two international mission trips focused on sharing His gospel and to the creation of the Sisters in Fellowship mentoring program (which I’m praying about dusting off and formally launching). I enjoyed occasional speaking engagements and the passion surfaced to begin writing on a subject I so dearly love…Bible study.
As I’ve begun to come out of the curve, I am so excited that God has directed me to return to that place and to the very study topic that He first laid on my heart, 2 Corinthians 10:5:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
I am more excited than ever to dig into studying, researching and writing about this topic. It has been elating to receive several confirmations that this is the right path. First, I have already been invited to share the study with a local church’s women’s summer group. What an incredible thing to be so trusted! I also literally just received a text message from a friend, as I was writing about this topic in this blog post, saying that she was praying for me to have God’s guidance as I write the bible study. I love when God uses people to provide us with confirmation. A mere coincidence? No.
Finally, (bravo if you have read this far!) I have opened my home to two young women to help provide me with some income and am also beginning to promote my consulting business, offering my services for personal and small business communication, branding, marketing and events. I just finished building an all new website, which was a bit tricky as I am now tri-vocational. While I am still tinkering (I am incessantly picky) I am pretty excited about karenmichalle.com. The new website will also help me with marketing SEEN: Hope Prevails when it’s ready for sale.
So (whew!) there you have it. If this all sounds a bit messy, it is! A few months ago, during one of those times of praying for direction, God asked me if I would “trust him in the messiness.” Oh, how I love things to be ever so mapped out and clean. Yet, I am most certainly in a season of messiness. Yet, I am trusting him and excited to see where we will go together. Off we go.